Today I read The Practice of the Presence of God: The Best Rule of Holy Life (free text, mp3) by Brother Lawrence (1605-1691). The book is short, but dense and rich. The language is outdated and a bit awkward, but the content is profound.

Here are some great quotes from the “Conversations” about Brother Lawrence that precede the 15 letters written by Brother Lawrence:

When Brother Lawrence “had failed in his duty, he only confessed his fault, saying to God, ‘I shall never do otherwise, if You leave me to myself; ’tis You must hinder my falling, and mend what is amiss.’ That after this, he gave himself no further uneasiness about it.”

Brother Lawrence sought to enter a monastery, where he could “sacrifice to God his life, with its pleasures: but… God had disappointed him, he having met with nothing but satisfaction in that state.”

He believed that “we ought to give ourselves up to God, with regard both to things temporal and spiritual, and seek our satisfaction only in the fulfilling His will, whether He lead us by suffering or by consolation, for all would be equal to a soul truly resigned.”

Brother Lawrence “was always pleasing himself in every condition, by doing little things for the love of God.”

And, I’m tempted to quote the entire Fourth Conversation, which is basically a summary how-to guide for “the manner of going to God” and achieving the incredible surrender and joy that Brother Lawrence seems to have achieved.

The book impacted me greatly, even though it is probably much harder to apply his strategies to a contemporary American life than to his 17th-century priory-bound life. It was probably impacting to me because his faith seems to me exceptionally selfish like my own (seeking God as a means to personal transformation and fulfillment rather than as a means to save and serve the lost), and that is the theme of his life that most contradicts my reading of Scripture and challenges me to practice differently than he (but certainly, similar with respect to the constant presence of God).